At this very moment, a brand new dosa is being designed in a secret Chennai lab. Poorva Rajaram reports
A SECRET dosa lab with its own batter specialist sounds like a Quick Gun Murugan sequel but Bhaskaran Krishnan spends the first four hours of every working day inventing new dosas. The 39-year-old corporate chef for the two year- old Chennai-based vegetarian chain Dosa Calling says, “I follow my wild thoughts. I recently invented the Sutta Kathrikkai (Smoked Brinjal) Dosa — you can have south Indian baingan bharta in your dosa instead of potato! The Soya Keema Dosa is popular too.”
For Krishnan and his 65- member research and development team, making sure the inventions are edible is the first step. Next comes the resident dosa scientist. A dosa scientist conjures up images of dosa batter in a beaker being held over a Bunsen burner. This is not far from the truth — a highly qualified microbiologist examines shelf life, taste, quality and colour. Krishnan then assembles his guinea pigs — a group of 75 “old, middle-aged and Café Coffee Day going people” — feeding them new-fangled dosas and getting detailed feedback. Not all wild ideas are hits: the Nine Grain Dosa, for instance, failed because it was too healthy.
It is not unusual to find microbiologists working for five-star hotels; however, the dosa-tweaking scientist is quite another thing. B Krishna Kumar, five-star hotelier and owner of Dosa Calling says, “Our batter formula came from an avid dosa scientist at the Centre for Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, who has 25 years experience researching batter. His formula has helped us achieve the right crispness and caramelisation.”
Alongside the zany dosas, they have adai — a traditional Dal Dosa served with jaggery. Charles Earl Anthony, a 28- year-old software professional who eats at Dosa Calling every day, says jokingly of their traditional fare, “Don’t trust my Christian tastebuds, but I usually see lots of approving Brahmins.”
Dosa Calling might be symptomatic of a move away from the vagaries of everyday cooking, toward a streamlined production process, but standardisation has a wacky side: there are scientists working overtime to stop your Szechwan Mushroom Mayo Dosa from killing you.